May 2005

Buffy St. Marie
May 3, 2005 • Hugh's Room • Toronto
She radiates enormous friendliness. Her family-arity transforms the packed house of fans, many of whom look like they’ve been following her since the 60’s, into an ‘Us.’ Right off, Buffy talks to ‘Us’ about ‘Them’–– the power addicts and their employees, the job addicts who “bring home the bacon, even if they work for a company that makes substandard bricks.”
What an entertainer this woman is! Her set list, her stage presence, and the style of her delivery are arranged to bring out her sense of drama to the max. Strumming her six-string, and ably backed by a bass player and a drummer, Buffy sings her old hit “Fallen Angels”. For her next number she picks up a mouth bow twanging it like a Jew’s harp. Follows that with a funny song about kids––“They eat green beans if they find them on the carpet”––doing funny voices and funny faces. From there she walks over to the Yamaha grand on stage and does one of her signature songs––“Indian Cowboy Rodeo”, chanting her high-pitched ‘ya-ya’. Many in the audience lip-synch the words and chant along with her. We are a tribe.

Buffy takes us deeper into tribal concerns, introducing a song by Floyd Red Crow Westerman who played Chief Ten Bears in the film Dances With Wolves. The song is about the notorious residential schools, the last of which were closed some years ago. The song is called “Relocation Blues”. Buffy sings it a Capella, wailing ‘heya, heya’ in a voice filled with heartbreak and pain. Not to abuse us, she segues into the tender, inspirational “Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong”.

She shares her appreciation of the power of song by telling us about The Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, and the induction into it of her song “The Universal Soldier”. Her success and fame are part of the warmth Buffy shares. If there is an off note in the evening, it is her voice monitor which doesn’t seem to be delivering enough power, and may be responsible for some vocal flatness, as if her voice, while retaining its power, has lost some luster.

“The Universal Soldier” targets “the billionaire bullies who make war on the masses and clean out the purse.” When Buffy is done, the fans applaud wildly and begin popping out of their seats to make it a standing ovation.

Suzie Vinnick did a fine job opening the evening with her considerable blues guitar and vocals of her own composition. Suzie will be part of Toronto’s Distillery Festival later this month, and in June Suzie will share the Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival Mainstage with some other Divas.

We welcome your comments and feedback
• • • • • •
Report and Photograph by
• •
Stanley Fefferman
for The Live Music Report

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